It’s hard to stick a label on it – Interview with Queen of Distortion

They are still a young band, at least if you consider the length of their existence. Queen of Distortion were formed in 2018 by musicians who had previously been active in other bands. I got to know the band through a livestream concert from the Coroncert series. Sure, the concert took place at least under acoustically ideal conditions, but real live atmosphere did not come up. However, the viewer was able to form an opinion about the band based on the songs, and it turned out to be extremely positive. After several singles and (live) EPs, the debut album “Checkmate!” was recently released. A remarkable debut. So it was time to ask the band about their history and future plans.

MHF: Hi, I’m Rainer and I write for the Metalheads Forever Magazine. Thank you for letting me do this interview with you. How are you?

Chris: We are very happy right now, the album is out now, we had our very first concert with an audience since February last year last week, and it was just a great feeling to finally get a taste of live atmosphere again.

MHF: Queen of Distortion haven’t been around that long. Please introduce the band briefly!

Chris T’Anti: Vocals
Torsten Schirmer: Guitar
Mike Richter: Guitar
Carsten Bätge: Bass, Backing Vocals, Keyboard
Holger Schilling: Drums

Founded in Braunschweig at the beginning of 2018
Discography:      Rising From The Fallen – EP 2019
                           Live From The Fallen – Live-EP (online) 2020
                           Checkmate! – Full length CD 2021

MHF: In your band bio we can read that you have played in several other bands before. Please tell us a bit more about your musical career.

Chris: I studied opera singing, but I’ve always enjoyed performing in all genres. For a long time I sang in various top 40, funk and soul bands and even in a salsa band. In 2018, after postgraduate studies in Copenhagen, I switched to the “hard stuff”.

Carsten: I learned the bass autodidactically at the age of 14. After my first band at school (German Rock/Pop/Reggae), I founded the metal trio “Alien Power” in 1986, where I took over the lead vocals in addition to the bass and also played bass pedals live. The band broke up in 1994 because our drummer got arthritis in his knees, and we couldn’t find a replacement who was anywhere near as technically proficient. I then joined “Random” from Düsseldorf, worked on two productions and played on the European tour as the opening act for “U.D.O.”. Unfortunately, our backline was seized on the tour because the record company didn’t pay the bus company. After that I was fed up and never wanted to play music again. But the decision didn’t last long, and I built a home studio and recorded the next album of “Alien Power” with the old guitarist. This made me want to play live music again so much that we founded “Carbid!”, but as a pure hobby and cover band. The guitarist then changed several times, and we made our own music again and released two CDs.

Torsten: At the age of 13, as a Maiden fan, I started practising with my father’s guitar. Very quickly I played Metallica’s “Kill’em All” up and down, every day. At 17 I played my first gigs in the first band “Silent Terror” (Thrash Metal). Then a short break (skating) and at 21 I went back on stage with Gothic Metal, back then with “Suspiria”. Then with “Mandrake” and after that the first heavy metal band “Gladiators”. But after one year we changed to “Mathyr” – Death Black Metal from Sonneberg. We played many gigs and recorded a CD. In 2006 I changed to the Death Metal band “Disrepute”. Also played a lot of gigs in a very short time. In 2009 I joined “Time to Bleed”, where I played beautiful old school Death Metal and also recorded a CD. In 2015 I joined “Carbid!”… which then became “Queen of Distortion”…

Holger:I grew up with bands like Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon, Accept and Queensryche. I started playing drums when I was 15, without a teacher, just like that. My brother played guitar and once took me to the rehearsal room of his band. There was a drum kit there. So I sat down and started playing. I taught myself the rest, copied things here and there, listened to songs, played them and tried out a lot. It was a hard time, Youtube didn’t exist yet, MTV was just coming up. When I was 18, I founded a band with friends and covered Metal songs. Then another musician took notice of me and poached me for a 70s/80s cover band. I had to play Hard Rock, Rock, Blues and Country and Rock’n’Roll songs for a few years, although I had no idea how to play them. I had to learn a lot. But at least we had about 25 gigs a year in pubs and town festivals. When I was 25, I joined a Southern Rock band. We only played our own compositions and were quite successful. But due to personnel changes, the band broke up. In addition, when I was in my late 30s, I had to work, I was on business trips a lot, so music as an ambitious hobby with regular rehearsals during the week was no longer possible. But I kept the ball rolling, continued to practise on my own and played drums to songs by Mr. Big, Gary Moore or Dream Theater. In 2015, I read a want ad on the bulletin board “Metal band looking for drummer” and thought to myself: “You can ask”. That’s how I came to the band “Carbid!”, the “pre-era” of “Queen of Distortion”, so to speak.

Mike: When I started playing guitar, I learned my favourite songs first, of course. After a while, I wanted to know what it was like to play in front of people and had my first gig in front of my friends. I’ve always been into Hard Rock and Metal, so I tried to connect with bands in that category. Until I discovered my passion for straight metal.

MHF: How did you get to know each other? Why did you decide to form a new band?

Carsten: The band “Carbid!” was almost 18 years old, in the final phase first the drummer and then the guitarist left, so first Holger and then Torsten joined as replacements on their respective instruments. When our singer got severe problems with his voice, which didn’t go away, we broke up the band, but the three of us wanted to stay together. On the one hand, we were now looking for a new singer, whereby I liked the idea of a female singer better from the beginning because of the other vocal possibilities. On the other hand, we were looking for a second guitarist because we didn’t want to continue in the same style as with “Carbid!”. It was supposed to be a clear new beginning.

Chris: Holger had placed an ad, I saw it by chance and contacted him. He then sent me some material, “God of Games”, today’s “Hellfire” and “Bloody rain”. The music and the energy in it appealed to me right away and obviously the guys liked my way of singing. And here we are!

Carsten: We didn’t have luck with the second guitarist so quickly. We had some candidates, but they didn’t stay very long, so in autumn 2018 we went into the studio as a foursome and Torsten played all the guitar parts for the EP “Rising from the fallen” alone, whereby the arrangements were already clearly designed for two guitars. Directly after the studio we found a second guitarist, with whom we then played together for a year. In autumn 2019 he left us and we found Mike through an ad. Ironically, Mike had already applied to us in 2018, but unfortunately at the very moment when we had just decided on the other guitarist, so we didn’t even get to know each other.

Mike: I had read on Facebook that “Queen of Distortion” were looking for a second guitarist, so I got in touch and introduced myself.

MHF: Please describe the musical style of Queen of Distortion.

Carsten: That’s a difficult question… we are definitely rooted in the 80s, but the fact that everyone brings in their own influences and, for example, Holger has a soft spot for “Dream Theater” and Torsten for Death Metal, there are many elements that enrich the music and make it more colourful. Many fast songs and neck breaker parts, but also contrasting quiet passages, stomping, driving rhythms, but also technical gimmicks, catchy choruses with hook lines to sing along… all in all you could maybe call it Melodic Metal, somehow also Heavy-Power-True-Progressive… it’s hard to stick a label on it.

MHF: The album was apparently recorded during the pandemic. How did this influence the studio work?

Chris: We always arrived at the studio individually and I personally missed sitting together in the control room. It was also challenging for me that a guitar was missing when I sang my tracks, but that was just not possible due to the time schedule. 

Carsten: I know studio work mostly as being alone with the sound engineer and recording your parts, I didn’t find that necessarily different from the other productions I’ve worked on.

Mike: I found the studio work very efficient. Unfortunately, we had to meet individually, but we still all got a great result. 

MHF: Are you satisfied with the album? How were the reactions from fans and press?

Chris: I’m usually extremely fussy when it comes to my stuff, but I have to say that I think we did a great job, and I really like the mix and the sound. The reactions are all very positive, which makes me very proud, because there is a lot of heart and soul and a lot of personal stuff in it.

Carsten:  I did a count: This is now the tenth production I’ve been on and for the first time in my life I’m really satisfied. In fact, I don’t listen to anything else privately at the moment, I’m really thrilled. And since there are a lot of extremely positive reviews at the moment, we are constantly being confirmed. Especially the personal encouragement of the fans is something that just feels great.

Holger: I think we achieved a great result. Considering that we could only prepare under difficult conditions because of the pandemic. Of course, you can always say afterwards that something could have been done differently or “better” here and there, but we didn’t have an unlimited budget and therefore only a certain amount of time for the recordings. Personally, I am very satisfied and think the record is simply cool.

Mike: I think the album is really very successful and I am more than satisfied. The reactions from fans and press are very positive, which makes me very happy and shows that we have made the best of it.

MHF: Speaking of Covid. I got to know you through an internet live stream. What were your feelings like performing in a hall but without an audience?

Chris: That was very difficult for me as a singer. Ultimately, a concert lives from the interaction between the band and the audience, the audience gives a lot of energy, which in turn spurs the musicians on. And in this interaction, these “magical” moments arise, and you push each other. If you then just look into a black hall, something is missing. But in the end, I was still very happy about the opportunity to perform there. I thought it was great that people thought about alternatives, got creative and set up such a project!

Carsten: At least we had the live chat on the big monitor, that was something. And since everything was recorded, we released the live EP “Live from the fallen” online. Certainly, a somewhat different live record without an audience, but in a way also an exciting document of time. And the live videos from this EP can also be seen on our YouTube channel.

Mike: It was a strange feeling not to have an audience in front of you. It’s the audience that makes a concert unforgettable and incredibly fun.

MHF: After a long absence from the stage, you were able to celebrate the release party together with your fans a few weeks ago. That must have been a great moment of joy for you musicians, right?

Chris: Absolutely. I am still reaping the benefits!

Carsten: After such a long time, an absolutely exciting gig. We now know how positively the new album and the whole concept is received by the fans and have already collected a lot of ideas about what we will still implement live. But we won’t reveal anything about that for the time being.

Holger: It was just a great feeling to be able to play under live conditions again, with the audience and fans, to feel the enthusiasm, applause and cheers after a song, that’s completely different from a live stream with dead silence after every song.

Mike: Yes, it was just awesome to stand in front of people again and celebrate with them not only a concert but also our release party.

MHF: What are your plans for the future? Is another album planned? When the pandemic is finally over, will you also go on tour?

Chris: What do you do when you can’t perform, you are working on the new album… So yes, there will be a new album.

Mike: I really hope that we can perform normally again and do a tour soon. Until then, we will continue to work on new songs.

Carsten: Our creativity is unrestrained, we have about 80% of the material for a new album together, the concept and ideas for an artwork are already there… And we have already started shooting a new video. After the videos for the singles “Nightmares” and “Bloody Rain” and the title track “Checkmate!”, which can be seen on the label’s YouTube channel, there will also be a video for the opener “Throne of Destruction”.  And of course, we want to play live again. At the moment we are preparing to present the album properly. And a release tour is already being planned.

MHF: Thank you again for the interview. Do you want to say something to your fans in conclusion?

Chris: Many thanks to all friends and fans for your support. We are looking forward to more great concerts with you!

Mike: A huge thank you to all the friends and fans, you guys are awesome!

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